Category Archives: Articles

The Troubled Beginnings of the Pentium

EDITORIAL

Back in 1993, Intel released the successor to the i486, the Pentium. Originally to be called the i586, Intel was facing the problem of rivals using the same naming scheme as them and were unsuccessful in trademarking 586 due to it being a string of numbers. To combat this, Intel approached Legicon Branding, a branding firm behind the likes of Apple’s PowerBook and Adobe’s InDesign, who came up with the name Pentium. Penta being five (with the Pentium being the fifth iteration of x86 CPU), and -ium being the suffix found with many elements on the periodic table. With Intel deeming the processor to be a key element in a PC, the Pentium brand was born.

How Shazam Works

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

Shazam is a cellphone app that most of us use for identifying songs that we hear on the radio, playing in a restaurant, or anywhere else really. For us humans, identifying a song is very easy. We can hear a small snippet of a song and identify it very quickly, even if it is played on a different instrument or hummed. We can even identify a song from one single instrument playing, or possibly even the bass line.

Cancelled 3dfx Interactive Rampage GPU in the Wild, Put Through its Paces with Max Payne, Unreal Tournament & 3DMark 2001

EDITORIAL

3dfx Interactive is a name that will forever go down in the history books for the advances they brought to 3D gaming. If you’re unfamiliar with the legacy of 3dfx, have a look at this Technology Explained article we did a while ago. In some of the most exciting retro news in a long time, Martín Gamero Prieto has shown images of a working sample of the unreleased Rampage which he put through its paces in several games and 3DMark.

Real Time Ray Tracing in Quake 2 in 2017, or How Far We’ve Actually Come in a Year

EDITORIAL

NVIDIA’s real time ray tracing hype has been taking a beating for its low performance when compared to traditional render methods – namely rasterization, which is what is used in current games. To fully appreciate just how amazing the technology really is, let’s take a look at real time ray tracing from last year. The game is 20 years old and the card was the prime of its time – Quake 2 on a Titan Xp.

The Changing Definition of the Enthusiast

EDITORIAL

I fully understand the irony of this editorial as I sit here and type this from a Corsair K95 Platinum RGB keyboard, but I can’t help but come to the realisation: We deserve nothing more than RGB these days. To be honest, though, I didn’t get this keyboard for its lighting effects but rather for its comfort when typing. There was a time not too long ago (OK, it was a good while back – more than a decade for sure) where engineering was appreciated no matter the appearance, while today we have the exact opposite scenario.

LCD and OLED Displays

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

The most commonly available displays on the market today are LCD and OLED, with older technologies such as CRT and plasma being less and less common or even phased out altogether. OLED has been showing up more and more in recent years, with it gaining popularity with Samsung’s AMOLED displays dating back to the original Samsung Galaxy smartphone. These days we are beginning to see OLED used on TVs and computer monitors, albeit at quite a cost.

ECC Memory

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

ECC memory is something you often hear about, but what is it? Every so often, RAM will have an unrecoverable error. This is something that is unavoidable. With 16 GB RAM, there are a total of 137,438,953,472 (that’s over 137 billion bits which can be either one or zero, meaning that a single incorrect bit is an error rate of only 0.00000000073%. As insignificant as this may seem, it is enough to cause an application to crash or a blue screen or death. If this error is in a non-critical area, you might not even notice it in day to day use.

The History of Overclocking

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

Introduction – The First 15 Years

Overclocking may have only become a mainstream exercise is the last decade, but its roots can be traced back to the PC itself. While the methods used to overclock may have changed over the years, the goal has remained the same – to increase the performance of your computer. Much like modifying a car’s engine, overclocking can be done for one of two reasons. Either you can increase the performance of a cheap model to match that of a more expensive model, or you can shoot for performance greater than that of any off-the-shelf components.

How CPU Cache Works

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

You’ve undoubtedly heard about CPU cache and know that a larger cache is better, but what exactly is it and why does it affect performance? Additionally, you may be wondering why the cache is so small, normally between 32 KB and 16 MB depending on the level of cache (which we will explain a bit further one) on a high end processor or less when system RAM is measured in gigabytes.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX Failure Rates

EDITORIAL

The GeForce RTX range of cards have been taking a lot of flack since launch, mainly from people disappointed with the performance and lack of support for RTX in games, but also partly for reportedly high failure rates with users on the NVIDIA forums and Reddit reporting either black screens or artifacting.

NVIDIA RTX – A Useless Technology or Something Badly Misunderstood?

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

NVIDIA’s latest graphics cards, the GeForce RTX series, have been taking a beating in the media for their apparent lack of performance improvement over the previous generation. The question that needs to be asked is, is this negativity fair? To answer that, we need to delve into where the expectations come from and what the cards are actually designed to achieve.

October Budget Buys

EDITORIAL

It’s that time again and although a bit belated there are still deals to be bought and money to be spent…errr we hope. I could close off this article here and now by simply stating that my sound advice for this month is: save your cash for Black Friday, but where’s the fun in that. Oh, and while I’m at it make sure that you have a TV license on hand for Black Friday as rumor has it you won’t be able to buy a TV without one. Here are the deals, warn the missus and lock your door as we go down another CUD attack.

Nein, Intel

EDITORIAL

It’s the dawning of a new era. Intel’s new core 9th generation processors are set to be released and with it the beginning of true computing power… for some. I mean c’mon, 8 cores and 16 threads, a sure way to kick AMD in the nuts at the start line with clock speeds that could make Barry Allen jealous, what more could an Intel fanboy want? Well here are my thoughts on the release of Intel’s 9th generation chips. WARNING: Kids cover your ears because it’s about to get dirty.

NVIDIA G-SYNC

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

You’ve all heard of G-Sync and how it gives a smoother gaming experience, but it is commonly misunderstood how exactly it does so. There is more to a smooth gaming experience than just a high frame rate. In an ideal world, a graphics card and monitor would work in perfect harmony, with each frame being displayed by the screen as soon as it is ready from the graphics card. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily how things work. In fact, most of the time things don’t work that way at all. Before we can explain what G-Sync is, we need to understand the process of displaying motion graphics on a monitor, which is what most of this article will be about. Let’s dive in and take a closer look.

80 PLUS Certification

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

The 80 PLUS initiative was launched in 2004 by Ecos Consulting to promote energy efficiency, which results in lower power consumption, less heat output, and therefore greater reliability. The first 80 PLUS PSU was brought to market by Seasonic early the next year. There are currently over 6,400 PSUs in the 80 PLUS database, with more joining the ranks all the time. This is a clear indication that it has been a success and become an industry standard.

3dfx Interactive and Voodoo Graphics – The Technologies Within

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

You could play a PC CD-ROM game without a 3DFX card, but I wouldn’t recommend it” – Gary Keith of Eidos at the time. That’s quite a powerful statement. Most of you have heard of the now-defunct company 3dfx Interactive, which was acquired by NVIDIA in December 2000 for $ 112 million (a process which took more than eight years to finalize), but who were they and what did they do that immortalized them in time? What innovations did they bring to the table that either stuck with us for a significant period of time, possibly appearing in different iterations in other products, and what has stuck with us ever since?

How Ray Tracing Works

TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

Ray tracing is a rendering technique for more life-like lighting effects in a 3D scene. As the name suggests, each ray of light has its path traced from the camera to objects on screen and then to light sources. Traditionally, games use rasterization for calculating the lighting effects, where the image being displayed on screen is flattened into a 2D plane and the brightness of each pixel is calculated according to the amount of light hitting it. With ray tracing, there is a lot more involved such as reflections, refractions, chromatic aberrations, light scattering and more.

September Budget Computers

EDITORIAL

No matter the circumstances, no matter the weather, no matter what the wife might say or whether the notes in your wallet are getting dangerously few, there will always be a need for a computer upgrade or a just a whole new build. And then there was monthly budget computers.

In this article I will be highlighting some current deals in major stores such as Evetech, Rebeltech and Wootware for those of you who are looking out for that shiny new PC part but want to avoid the shiner from the missus at home. Every month I will post an article to highlight some genuine deals as well as some advice on what to look for on Carbonite in order to afford the two-minute noodles you will be buying the rest of the month. So here we go…

To RGB or Not To RGB? DeepCool RGB 350 Kit Overview

OPINION

While pondering what to write in my first article I remembered that I promised proof of my discovery that RGB does in fact improve gaming performance. Now, while I can almost imagine many of you calling us back to reality: “don’t go towards the light, Joe” others will have sworn their undying loyalty to over-zealous luminous lighting that may potentially blind them, I ask that all bear with me for a moment as I state my case to both the nays and the yays.

Homebrew Cray-1 Supercomputer Built In 1:10 Scale

ARTICLE

In 1976, Cray Research installed one of the most successful supercomputers of all time; the Cray-1. Capable of 160 million FLOPS (only matched by desktops 20 years later) the first of these 80 MHz giants sold for $8.8M. Utilising a staggering 32 MB of SRAM and performing 3 floating point operations per a cycle, this was the ultimate computer. The Cray-1 was designed to be fast and, as such, was heavily pipelined. As a result instruction execution time needed to be known in advance which lead to a RISC style architecture as opposed to x86′s CISC approach.

Build Your Own Carputer

DO IT YOURSELF

A carputer, sometimes known as a CarPC, is a custom built PC system designed for use in a vehicle providing functionality such as DVD playback, MP3 playback, GPS navigation and much more. In reality, the only limitation is your imagination. One could even use a carputer for wardriving.

With the low-by-modern-standards power requirements for any of the above, a carputer needn’t be overly expensive or hard to cool. Handy optional extras will include the likes of a touch screen (otherwise a media center remote will suffice), a GPS receiver and a WiFi dongle (unless, of course, you choose a motherboard with integrated Wi-Fi).